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Zodiac Trip Report

By Eric Coomer.

So, here is my latest attempt at story telling. Follows is a trip report of Zodiac, 5.9 A3+ in Yosemite Valley. It's got your usual fear, loathing, beta, and even some rather fond memories of a fantastic route. By far, this climb was one of my best adventures. Committing climbing, a great partner, lots of fun.

Comments, flames, send them all along to me by email: coomer@nuc.berkeley.edu or bbindner@ebmud.com

The Pig and Howdy, our two haul bags, were packed, the last of the beer had been swilled down, the sun was getting low so it seemed the perfect time to start the trudge to the base of Zodiac. Besides the bags, I had a partner for this outing, Sir Brutus of Wyde aka Bruce aka 44-Magnum Rope Gun. We opted to take the longer yet less steep walk along the base of the Captain from the Nose rather than the more direct talus field below Zodiac. The hike is definitely longer this way, but I think it a lot kinder on the quads. So we began the plod. Close behind us were three wall-boys gaining fast- lighter loads. We outwardly hoped that they weren't heading for Zodiac. They passed as we huffed and mentioned something about Salathe in a thick accent. Cool!

We passed the start of several routes along the way. "Hey Bruce, you sure you don't want to just head up Mescalito????" I spat out in anguish as Pig was rapidly digging into my shoulders and back.

"Nah! Besides, we don't have the rack for it." He was right, though it amazes me that with all the hardware we had, we would need more for mescalito. We didn't have the water either. Even though it was labour day weekend- actually the wednesday before, we were only carrying three quarts per person per day for four days, hardly on the heavy side for water when the valley can be scorching. We would soon regret our meager rations. Plod plod plod. The trail steepens past mescalito for a ways up to the start of the PO wall. Grunting, sweating, always hoping that somehow the bag will become lighter all on it's own. No luck.

We finally hit the the spot around the NA wall where the trail levels off for a ways. I looked longingly up the black diorite section of cliff that is North America. I want to hit that wall so bad. But I try not to linger as we have a different objective today. Grunt Grunt Grunt! We can see the set of roofs above the first pitch of Zodiac, still they are about an hour away; the light is fading fast. We pick our path through the talus to the trees and then wander through the darkening grove until we come to the other side. Now it's getting real dark. Digging out the head lamp I can see Bruce up ahead sitting in a nice flat clearing; hopefully he's at the base of the climb.

Dropping the bags, we begin to settle in for the night. Already we are quite some distance above the valley floor. I shudder at the thought of how many tourists will soon be honking their way around the loop as labour day rapidly approaches. I'm glad to be at the base of a lone wall. High above there are several parties all over the big stone. Looks to be about two parties on Zodiac but they are far enough above as to not pose any possible problem for us. Unfortunately there are two fixed ropes hanging down the route to the base from the top of pitch two. Well, no sign of actual people, so I guess it's "You snooze, ya' lose." Hopefully we can be on the route before anyone shows up. We take the time to hang the food from the first bolt about 7 feet off the ground. Bruce proudly exclaims that he has clipped the start for me in the morning. It's time to sleep- though, I don't think you can call the night before a wall sleeping. I always find myself tossing and turning, thoughts of hard work and sweat and no showers filling my head. This is the stuff of big walls for sure.

Way too early I awake. The sun is just starting to break the horizon. I grab the alarm clock and find that it's already 10 til 6 a.m. We have overslept right through the alarm which was set for 5. I roll over on my 3.4 length ridge rest to stare at Brutus quietly sleeping on his plush K-ledge. Yup, no porta-ledge wimp on this climb(well me yes, him no). He has the the $20 special, K-mart brand folding cot, complete with legs still on to provide rigidity, though I think they were left on just for this occaision.

We rub the grit from our eyes and with few words start to eat and prepare for blast off. We aren't planning on fixing any pitches, just heading straight up. I prefer it that way. Better to just get on the thing even if you have to bivy at the top of the first or second pitch.

After diddling around with the bags and getting everything straightened, I swap my aiders for Brutus' on the first bolt. I'm literally salivating because this climb has been on my mind for over a year. I had planned on an attempt at the end of last season but ran out of time. Now, was the day I had been waiting for, I launched up the first couple of bolts.

I guess this is where the fun started. I found myself clipping a slim #2 copper-head. Hmmm, I knew there were some heads on the route but I didn't think they would start so early. Bounce, bounce, bounce. Seemed good. Stepping up, I clipped another # 2 head. "Testing!" Bounce, bounce, AIRBORN! I slammed into the bottom head. How this thing held the 7 footer I took, I'm not sure. "Wow Bruce, that sucked."

"Sure looked like it. You okay?"

"Yeah," I said looking at the blown head. It looked like it was placed with a knife rather than a chisel. Most of the outside of the head was cut clean through to the cable. I grumbled a bit as I tossed the thing down to Bruce at the belay 20 feet below. I grabbed one of the three #2 heads we brought along and commensed pounding it into the 90 degree corner. "Testing." Bounce, bounce, AIRBORN!!!! This was getting ridiculous. Already, two falls in the first 20 feet of the first pitch. I was having doubts. The head placement was obviously bunk. The rock was dirty and the placement flared and far from ideal. I called down for the "cheater" stick we picked up on the way to the climb. I hauled it up on the second line, taped a biner to the end and snagged the bolt another placement above. Then came the long string of body weight only rivets and hook placements. I was shitting my pants at this point. This section of the pitch was only A2! Now I was beginning to think that all this time, I was kidding myself. I had no business being on even a "trade" route like Zodiac. This thought kept running through my head even as I placed yet another #0 home-made rivet hanger around the next scrap of metal. I didn't want to say anything to Brutus thinking I would scare him off the rest of the climb. What had I gotten myself into. I was near a big hook traverse that would take me to another fixed string of heads.

"Uh... um... Eric... I, uh, don't know how to say this, uh... I don't think you're on Zodiac. I mean, hey, does that look like a leeper Z-ton crack above you with all those heads sticking out of it? And besides, there isn't any belay above you and there's this nice crack over here you see, and besides I certainly wouldn't call what you're on a trade route- would you?"

Brutus had a point. "What the fuck do I do now," no I could whimper safely. On the one hand, I was pissed. It had taken me almost an hour to get through this half of a pitch for nothing. On the other hand, I couldn't be more relieved, though I was quite exposed, rocking on yet another rivet. I thought of finishing the pitch but quickly convinced myself that that was not the way to proceed. I didn't want to down aid this though. "Well, any suggestions on how the hell I get myself off this nightmare?"

"Hey hey hey, we got these fixed ropes right." He swung one of the lines over to within my reach. I set up a rappell, but that was the easy part. I was still hanging way to the left of the fixed rope and as I unclipped from the rivet I went shooting out into space. The ordeal still had some bite. For the next half hour, I worked my way back down the route pulling my gear. Finally, on the ground I could breath again. So much for the early start.

We never have figured out what this pitch is. It is definitely not any of the lines in the Big Walls guide and we have just gone to calling it "Eric's Poopy Pants" A4 one pitch potential grounder. Maybe I'll head up and finish it one of these days... SARCASM PEOPLE!

So I found myself in the same position as two hours previously, clipped to the first bolt of the real Zodiac this time. I launched up, trying desperately to make up some of the lost time. This first pitch was so much more casual. But I was still tweaked from the other pitch. Halfway up I popped a small blue alien and came crashing down once again onto my aiders on the piece below. The fall count was up to three now. Very very uncool as far as I was concerned. This put me on guard for the rest of the day. I suddenly became quite timid; this feeling lasted through til the second day of the climb. I was shaken, but resolved to work through it on the wall.

Towards the top I found the z-ton crack and worked up this on solid 2-cam alien placements. Once at the roof, I placed a baby sawed off in a shallow pin scar instead of cheating past this to a fixed piece. I had wanted to do this wall as clean as possible but wanted to spare the cheater stick. I'd rather hammer than "cheat." I was finally at the belay. Brutus jugged and looked rather serious as he looked at the top section of the other "first pitch."

"I don't think you would have been happy on that. It looks real grim." He was probably right, but I still felt bad about the lost time.

We decided not to haul the first pitch since the second pitch has a major traverse and ends up only one full pitch above the ground in a straight line. Bruce headed out the downward sloping travers on some thin cams and finally some thin fixed gear. I cheerfully reminded him not to backclean any of the gear since I would have a hard enough time as it was cleaning the traverse. He was already making some big reaches. Around the corner he dissappeared. Soon I heard some grunts and choice explatives about the free climbing above. Brutus dispensed with this nuisance in good form and I was on my way cleaning- actually re-leading the pitch. Once around the corner I had Brutus in sight once again, and the bags were keeping him company.

Brutus decided to put the K-ledge to good use as I started the third pitch. It was the perfect belay chair as he watched me head out the initial scary free moves. Soon I had a decent hook placement and started to work my way up the thin crack. After what seemed like a long enough time, I clipped the belay, and shouted happily, only to be reminded that there is a false belay half way through the pitch. My hopes sank. I was sweating like mad and wanted this pitch to me over. Hooking past this section didn't help my mood. Eventually I found myself at the real belay a full pitch above Bruce. Hauling the bag, I knew we were running late. The sun was rapidly dipping lower in the sky.

Bruce arrived, and the ritual gear swap begain once again. The rack easily weighed in excess of 45 pounds. It was a perfect weight for the opening 5.6 free moves up the next corner. Bruce looked real excited to be leading this section in his slick tennis shoes. As Bruce took off, I continued to watch the sun complete its daily journey. I made sure that my headlamp was close at hand. Just as the sun was crossing the horizon, I begain to jug the pitch. Bruce had run it out just a tad much on the opening moves which made my jumar extra exciting. Eventually, the rope begain to go dead verticle and the night jumar was not much of a hassle. Upon arriving at the bivy, I was astounded to see my port-a-ledge half set up. Bruce just smiled. I stopped below pig and howdy to empty their bellies of our nightly food and bivy gear. Since this was the first night, they were extra fat.

I was still feeling eneasy about the whole day as I laid my head to rest in my ledge. Below I could see the first round of labour day tourons arriving in the valley a day early. For once, I was getting gripped about the exposure. I have always done rather well at hanging bivies. That night was a different matter all together. Every creak I heard assured me of my imminent plunder into the hungry talus below. I tried to ignore the feelings and just drift to sleep. It had been a hot day and thirst was swelling in my throat. Need- less to say, I didn't sleep very well this first night. All too soon, the familiar sound of the alarm signalled that it was now 5:30. I was sure that my end was near; all I could think of was that it was safer out of the ledge.

Bruce woke and we passed the ibuprofen around. The first course was swiftly followed with a can of fruit and then it was repacking the bags and heading back into the grind. It was at this point I realized that the whole night Bruce had perched himself right next to a huge loose block. It shifted several times that morning while getting ready. If it had come off, Bruce would probably have been history. Nasty stuff.

It was my lead, and I did not like the looks of the starting 5.8 traverse from the belay. The topo indicated backcleaning the entire fifth pitch and then joining five and six. Sounded reasonable to me. What follows is a short description on how to turn an A1 bolt ladder into a horrifying A4+ heath pitch- not for the weak at heart. The initial moves were slimy so I pulled out the big hooks. A nice rail offered perfect placements for both the fish and captain hooks. A couple of skyhook moves followed and soon I realized that I was 20 feet straight left of the belay with no pro. The expression on Brutus' face summed up the situation perfectly. It was at this point that I realized that there were no more hook slots and that it was free climbing time to the first bolt in the ladder. "Watch me," was all I could say as I greased my way along the 5.8 toe rail. Once I clipped the bolt, I felt much more relaxed. For the next 90 feet I followed a rather circutious path of old rivets and the occaisional split shaft bolt. All I can think is that the first ascentionist was searching for a pin crack further left. All that exists over there is a shallow corner-groove that wouldn't even hold a copper head, so then the pitch arches back right til over the belay. I was now at the end of the bolt ladder and staring at Dead End Ledge just 10 feet higher. Below was 100 feet of line leading straight to Bruce, narry a piece of pro between him and me. The bolts had stopped and all that remained were a series of two hook moves to an uncertain end on the ledge. It was looking bad. I placed the first solid hook and slowly stepped up. I unclipped the last bolt and climbed towards the next hook placement. "Uhh... this is looking bad Bruce, better watch me." I don't know what I expect him to do. If I had pinged, it would have been a full 200 foot whipper straight on to the belay below. I set the hook and stepped up. I could now reach the ledge, but not the bolt seven feet away. In the next few minutes I found myself pulling a nice 5.7 mantle move way too far away from my belay. My mouth seized completely dry and once the move was over, I could move no farther. I didn't want to take on step for fear of tripping on my own aiders. Eventually, I worked my way towards the lone bolt and clipped in. I was finally safe.

Well, almost. Next was working my way over a rotting ledge-platform thing on 5.7 moves still backcleaning the whole way. After another 15 feet I finally clipped a bolt with a runner that I could leave. Bruce shouted elations from below, as he was sure that we were both goners. The rest of the pitch has worked its way into obvlivion in my mind since all I can recall is the horrifying experience of joining five and six together. At the end was the first real stance belay on top of a giant block. It was spacious and comfy and I enjoyed the view. It was at this point that I realized just how hot it was. The sun was in full blare with not a cloud in the sky. All ready I had consumed one of three quarts of water for the day. Bruce and the bags finally arrived at the belay.

"You're certainly no rope gun..." Bruce offered, I was a bit puzzled, "You're a fucking cannon, you're a loose cannon- Loose Cannon Coomer!" We both nervously laughed about the last lead. Bruce assured me that he had wrapped the belay end of the rope around a biner several times in order to keep me on belay in the event that he had lost consciousness holding a huge fall. I'm not sure that made me feel any better.

We had no time to lose and soon Bruce was sauntering up the corner of the next pitch. Hard 5.8 moves brought him into the black tower. The beta here is cam hooks up the right side but Bruce would have none of that. He says he just doesn't trust them all that much since he doesn't have much experience with him. I shared my view about benevolent aliens inventing them, but it didn't seem to help much. At the top of the tower there was some confusion on exactly where the traversing A3 rurp crack lead. It's not altogether completely obvious since there are several shallow seams in the vicinity. Bruce spotted a couple of rusty rurps 15 feet away and that sealed the deal. I listened to the sound of hammer blows for almost the rest of the pitch. Cleaning revealed a wonderful section of climbing above the black tower. I wish I had a chance to lead that; Brutus did a fine job leading us to the botton of the grey circle of the Zodiac.

Once again, I started out on hooks from the belay. I worked my way 15 feet left and came to a dilemma. If I went up from here, I could follow a scarred crack to a rivet below a big roof. From there I couldn't see any other fixed gear and the roof could not be nailed. If I continued left, I could hook and friend my way for another 15 feet. Above the end of the traverse were two shiny new 3/8" bolts. It looked like a line would lead from there straight to the next aid corner in the grey circle. I chose my line and headed off. The traverse was delicate but nothing severe. At the end however, I was screwed. Way out of reach was that shiny bolt. Between it and me however, was glass. I looked for a bat hook hole, or a blown rivet but I did not see a thing. I grabbed the sky hook and looked for a suitable edge. Again, I warned Bruce to watch me. This was getting tedious. I found a hook slot and slowly stepped up. It looked bad and was already shifting. "It's a time bomb Bruce," POP! "AND IT'S TICKING!" One of the crystals on the edge gave way and I was sure I was going to blow. Edging higher, I finally grabbed the bolt and felt safe again. Up to the next bolt somewhat cheerfully I soon realized my ultimate mistake. There was no line above here. Only now did I get a view of the line of rivets leading under the roof on the other path. I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing. I tried hooking above the bolt but there wasn't a single edge for miles around. Shouting back and forth Bruce and I finally decided it was best for me to lower off the bolt and back clean my way back to the original scarred crack. Bruce would clean the useless bolt on jumars from above. I was depressed. Once again, I had battled my way up hard aid for nothing. My mouth was drier than ever before.

All things do come to an end and I found myself back on course. The sun was getting low already. I hurried my way through the remaining pitch. I had to use the cheater stick once on this pitch to reach between rivets above the roof. How someone drilled here I will never know. The topo said rivets lead straight to the next belay but soon they ran out and I had to nail two pins and cam hook may way up an expando crack to the hanging bivy above. I knew we would bivy here tonight after only three pitches of climbing that day. There just wasn't enough daylight left.

As soon as the bags arrived I started to settle things for the night. It was still only 6:00 p.m. but the pitch above looked long and hard. Bruce arrived and agreed that the best would be to knock off early. We proceeded with emptying the pigs. Both Bruce and I were terribly dehydrated. It was a typical glorious big wall bivy. Lots of exposure, canned food, no water. We did have an extra 2 quarts for that night and decided it was best to just down them. I tried all night to conserve as much as possible. At one point, I woke up when my tongue split on the surface from being so dry.

Morning came, and the ritual began once again. It was Bruce's turn to get some fear going on the next A3+ crack. The pitch started innocuously enough on old split shaft bolts leading into a corner. From there it was a beautiful full 165' crack leading to the next belay. This pitch a little of everything- a couple of sawed off, some cam hooks, fixed heads, thin arrows, fixed rurps. Soon I was jugging and cleaning getting myself psyched for the nipple pitch. I was finally feeling on my game.

I shouldered every last piece of gear we brought for the next pitch. I had triples of every piece to a number 4 friend and Elvis- number 5 camalot- for the big fat hairy nipple. I started up the crack to where the pitch traverses out the granite breast dead right. I cammed and nail my way across at a good pace. I made big reaches where I could but didn't stretch too much knowing Bruce would have it tough on jumars. Finally I started to near the nipple itself.

"I'm entering the areola!" I was feeling good. The crack was starting to widen. I couple of funky scars made it necessary to place the occaisional sawed off. I was having fun. Then the breast starts to pull away from the wall radically near the nipple itself. I slipped a #2 camalot, then a #3 behind the flake. The next placement was a #4 camalot. The left two cams completely closed, the right to cams tipped out- flaring!

"This sucker is pierced!" I screamed back to Bruce. Another 5 feet out there was a bolt on the face under the nipple. At this point I was getting giddy. I grabbed the Big Guy and slapped him in above me. I removed the #4 behind me and worked out to the bolt. Clipping this, I moved behind the nipple to the next and last bolt. I've had dreams about this position before, being smothered by a giant breast. I was now wedged between the nipple and the wall- very awkward. I worked up, threw in the #4. Eventually I was stradling the breast hooping and hollering- ride 'em cowboy. The pitch was far from over. >From here, it's a splitter crack up to the belay. By the time I reached the top, I was completely spent. I had worked my ass off on this pitch. I smoked it in under two hours and was feeling quite good. I wasn't sure I had anything left to haul with. Looking down was an immense amount of gear. I had used pretty much everything we brought. I was down to two slings.

"YYEEEEEEHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!" several other parties answered my cry.

Bruce arrived after a fairly involved cleaning and looked above at the zorro roofs. I was looking forward to strapping myself into the k-ledge for a nice cozy belay. Up he went. It soon got interestning as Bruce was forced into some 5.11 top step moves to reach past blown heads around the roof. He made an impressive display pulling the roofs. I was enjoying the view, wondering if my wife had finally arrived in the valley below. I thought I saw the jeep but just wasn't sure.

Once again, I was soon jugging my way towards Brutus. I arrived at the belay, loaded the gear and took off on the next pitch. It was getting late, and I wanted to get the bivy set up before dark. To be honest I don't remember much about this pitch. At the end was a large set of bolts- mostly 1/4 inch split shafts with one 3/8" in the center. The bolts were spread out quite a ways and looked like a good place to hang the ledges. I hauled the bags and soon Bruce was at howdy unpacking all the contents. It would be our last night on the wall, so we starting repacking all the empty water bottles and trash into the lower bag. Bruce took it upon himself to clean all the remaining drops of water from the empty bottles. After three or four bottles, I realized that somewhere in the mess was a pee bottle I had used two nights earlier. I was about to warn Bruce when I saw the look of horror on his face. He easily forced two sips of warm festering urine down his throat before realizing his mistake. Gagging ensued. I quickly tethered down a bottle of real water for Bruce to wash out the residue. Looking back, it was a rather funny sight. I don't think Bruce will ever make this mistake again.

We settled in for the night. Eating was a poor affair. The dehydration was mounting in a serious way. We forced down two cans of soup. These didn't have much calorie content, but contained enough water that they were passable. The bivy was spectacularly airy. I drifted off having the most beautiful view of the valley stretching out at my feet.

In the morning I looked out to the cool beckoning waters of the merced. How I wished to plunge my sweat soaked body into the cold waters. We had another full day ahead of us. Summit fever raged. Bruce lead off onto the the fixed bolts up the next corner. The next pitch was rather circuitious. A couple of hours of work landed Bruce on peanut ledge. I set off on my jugs. I was letting the wall get to me. I could smell the top looming above. I wanted off. We made a hasty swap at the belay and I started up the wrong crack for the next pitch.

I only made two moves before switching to the appropriate wide crack. The pitch was awkward but went fast on large gear. I clipped the occaisional aid bolt for pro. The top was where the real fun began. I worked up into the roof capped corner on small cams. Tattered slings from a fixed angle dangled in the breeze to my left. It was a full traversing reach to clip in. Once clipped, I let go of the previous placement. I swung into space. I was easily four feet from any wall- left, right, and above. Below dangled the haul line straight towards Brutus. What a wild ride. I hollered with excitement. I had never felt so exposed. From here I worked up and around the roof, singing, babbling, screaming all the way. I pulled over onto the slab around the corner to the bewildered looks of a party on Zenyatta Mondatta. I didn't care if they thought I was crazy. I belted more bars of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight- clean outta'-sight."

We were two pitches from the top. Bruce lead off on yet another circuitious pitch, inching ever closer to the horizontal. But the pitch only gained a meager 60 feet of vertical elevation. My feet ached standing in my slings. He was mumbling about some scary traverse at the end while my mind wandered to the valley below. I could clearly see my wife's jeep parked at one of the turn out; I missed her so. Again, I jugged mindlessly towards Bruce. Along the traverse, I slit my knuckles on a sharp edge. The blood pooled like syrup. I no longer had enough moisture in my body to bleed properly. Bruce was at the belay talking to someone. I thought he had finally gone mad. Instead, it was a support party for the guys on Zenyatta. I yelled to Bruce to ask if they had any spare water. They said they would leave us some. From talking to my wife, it seems that the guy at the top was Kurt Smith. At the top I realized what Bruce had been babbling about. Stretched out to my left was a long wide down sloping ledge. The belay beckoned, but I was forced to free my way over on easy 5th class maybe even 4th class without the threat of aiders, gear, hammer and whatever hanging down waiting to pitch you off into the void. I slowly crept along the ledge. One pitch to go.

The last pitch was mine. It was only 80 feet so what could be the big deal? I worked my way right of the belay on the continuing ledge. At its end begain the crumbling 5.7 blocky free moves. Eventually, the hooks were unleashed to get me into the shallow corner above. The groove was festooned with ancient copper blobs. By now they no longer possessed cables. I didn't want to waste the time cleaning them so I topped stepped my way pass them on two cam placements. I could feel the top. Above was another set of tattered slings waving from a fixed angle too far out of reach. I looked for a placement. The only thing that presented itself was another hook slot. I placed the hook and worked up in the aiders- still too far away. It was so near, I top stepped and felt the overhanging route pushing me over; finally, I grabbed the slings. Two more moves and I could reach the bolts that marked the end of the route.

I was too excited to speak. As I mantled my way over the final lip, I looked down at Bruce and simple said, "We have arrived." The ending was more spectacular than I believed possible. One minute, your hanging on a hook totally overhanging clipping pins. The next moment, dead flat horizontal ground. I dropped the gear and smiled at the pile of full water bottles at my feet- easily 4 gallons worth of water. I chugged like a consumate frat boy swilling cheap beer.

The last haul was a nightmare. The qualities that make the ending so awesome only help to make the hauling so awful. The bags arrived with the help of Bruce. We dumped all the contents and grabbed the food bag. Now that we had water to spare, we could eat. We opened all the remaining cans of food- beans, chicken, bagels, cream cheese. It was a full on feast. We had topped out at exactly 4:02 on Sunday afternoon, 72 hours and 30 minutes after beginning our odessy. We ate ourselves silly and then began to repack for the walk down. All I could think of was getting down. I talked Bruce out of the falls trail opting for the quicker east ledges descent. He regaled me with tales of missed rappells but I would have none of it. It was getting late, so we hurried down. I promised to be done with the rappells before dark.

At 7:40 we found the first rappell. For some now unknown reason, Bruce offered to go first over the wall. He looked down and quizzed me about the next station. I assured him it was below. Soon afterwards I heard an amazing streak of shouts and grunts. Bruce was at the tree below, far left of the next station. The k-ledge was having its revenge and everything was tangled. Bruce let loose. Things were not good. I told him he was fucked and that I would come down to set the next station. I rappelled towards Bruce. We swapped positions on the rope and I headed down. Bruce eventually arrived at the stance for the next belay. The sun was gone. I dropped down into the tree lined terrace below. Bruce followed with howdy dangling below him and the bright blue K-ledge strapped to his back. "SUPER-FLY! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's SUPER-FLY" Bruce started to chuckle. I felt better about the situation. We dropped down the last rappell into the large gulley below.

It was bonafide dark now. But I was on a mission. I wanted to be down; my love was waiting. We down climbed our way along the gulley. Bruce was out- wardly protesting. The gulley was steep, we were tired, I was obsessed. Bruce finally gave in. "I'm not going any further," he announced. I still wanted down. He argued successfully that we were asking for it if we continued they way we were. I knew he was right but I was fighting a major temptation. I knew that Emily was only a short distance away. I needed to be down. Finally, I plopped myself in the dirt for a most uncomfortable night in the gulley. Bruce was already fast asleep.

Once the morning arrived, I knew I had been a shit that night about getting down. I apologized to Bruce for my rash behavior in the gulley. We were both ready to have this done with. Shouldering the pigs, we could now see the trail leading to the loop road. We hit the manure pile parking lot at 6:45 in the morning. The valley was still asleep. We rested briefly before heading for the car. We stopped short, dropped the bags, stripped the clothes and ran into the frigid waters of the merced just before reaching the bridge. It was cold but wonderfully refreshing. We dried off and headed for the car. On the front windshield was a note from my love. As expected, they had food and beer waiting for us- just stop on by. We threw the gear in the back of the truck and grabbed the last two warm beers we left in the back 4 days earlier. No beer has tasted finer, especially at 7:20 in the morning with a gorgeous view of a fantastic route looming above.

Get me back to

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